When I registered for Health Promotion Program planning, I didn’t really know what I was going to learn in the class because I had never taken a health promotion class. As someone who personally loves volunteering and helping out other communities, I was excited to be able to work closely with the African American immigrant community of Salem Gospel Ministries. The class gave us the opportunity to actually attend a Sunday service at Salem Gospel Ministries, which really helped understand the community, their needs, the general population (adults vs. children), cultural differences, and language barriers. All of the members were very friendly and inviting, and even had a personal English translator for our class members since they are mostly French speaking. The mission of Salem Gospel Ministries is to develop a community within these immigrants to help them become accustomed and integrated into the society. Church for them is a community that they can lean on for help with any problems they are experiencing, or even just a place to come and let go of the everyday hassles.
Within this community and the HPRM class, our goal was to understand how aware the community is about autism. Based on a survey my class developed and the responses from the church members, we noticed there was very little to no awareness about what autism is. We then developed a needs assessment to understand the needs of the community and ways to bring awareness. After developing a needs assessment my group members and I continued to make a lesson plan, workshops, brochures, and flyers to bring awareness. We then presented all the materials we gathered and created throughout the semester to my professor and the church leaders.
My expectations while working with this community was that they would have some basic understanding of what autism, that we would have a hard time developing a program plan that they can understand and actually take something away from, and lastly, I didn’t think they would be as interested or open to our class and all the different projects. But throughout the semester, I learned that there really is a lack of awareness and understanding about what autism is and what symptoms parents should be keeping their eyes open for throughout a child’s first years and also later in life. It is important for parents of children with autism to know that there are support groups that can help them cope with this and that they aren’t alone. It is never too late to start a child on medications for autism but it’s important to give proper resources and information to them. Developing a program plan for the community members to actually learn from wasn’t too hard especially because we were able to go to Salem Gospel Ministries and understand really the community we were working with and the space we had to hold the workshops. Lastly, church members were really interested in our project, working with us, and helping in any way they could. They were all very friendly and actually interested on the different projects we were working on. Dr. Adrien was the pastor of the church and he was very informative and helpful with answering questions and being able to really make the Sunday church service enjoyable for everyone.
Some connections I made throughout the semester between my volunteer work and my health promotion program class were the importance of programs like these and how they can help these kinds of communities grow and learn about real-life problems. With all the different programs that were created by my classmates and I, we were really able to give a great overview of problems they seemed to not know too much about after reviewing the survey results. The lessons I learned while working with this community are the importance of understanding different levels of awareness, knowledge, and experience from immigrants. It is always important to consider these especially when creating lesson plans and needs assessment. I definitely would be interested in registering for another CSLP learning program to reach out to other communities that need the help.